The Thickety: A Path Begins, by J.A. White

18651970

Four stars, read in April 2015.

The Thickety is surprisingly dark for juvenile fiction: grisly murders, horrifying creatures, dark magic, the extreme torment of small children by an entire village of cruel religious cult members. I liked it a lot even while I was annoyed by some silly things (the twelve-year-old girl’s dead mother’s dress “fit her perfectly,” really?) and enraged by others (the village full of terrible, awful people).

I had to pause for a while and think about that, actually, when one of the characters tries to explain the bullying of the other villagers by saying that they’re not bad people, they just “do bad things out of fear or foolishness.” This idea infuriates me.

On the one hand, I think it might be true, because it essentially explains most of humanity, including religious groups. On the other hand, I want to ask if you can be a good person who just does terrible things. Is fear an excuse? Is foolishness? Can you just say someone is too stupid to be held accountable for their behavior, even when they’re actively ruining someone else’s life? And then on the third hand, I also don’t think it matters. Whether you’re a bad person or a good person who does bad things—whatever that even means—is there really a reason to make a distinction? What is the actual difference?

The story is excellent, intriguing and very creepy, with a fantastic twist at the end and plenty of thought-provoking material in between. I enjoyed the second book as well, and I just learned that a third (final?) book was released in February of this year. I’ve lost interest in much of the middle grade and YA material I used to read, but this one is so unique, I am still intrigued.

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